all words and photos: Beca Grimm
I left my day-gig in Chinatown about 30 minutes before Kurt Vile’s slated performance in the DuPont area. I’m still virginal to D.C. so perhaps that’s why I didn’t time the trek quite right. That or I had no idea how willing Vile fans are to ignore all personal space to allow for more bodies — although I doubt the full volume of attendees could have ever fit inside.
Regardless, I was told the performance kicked off early. I arrived to a crowded sidewalk outside of Red Onion Records & Books at about 10 past six.
Wedged between vermilion bricks and the neighboring dry cleaners, frames held still and voices quiet. Everyone on the steps leading down into the glory hole stood leaning slightly forward, craning to swallow more sound. There were about 20 of us stuffed into the annex, but no one muttered a single complaint. Most were silent. All were listening.
“Jesus Fever,” the first single from the damn-near immaculate Smoke Ring For My Halo (OUT TOMORROW! ON MATADOR!) , rang bright and clear from my perch next to a tan Member’s Only jacket. I wondered in anyone in the perpendicular hall had a better view. Then I saw this guy.
It’s a bit blurry, but look at that face. That fierce captivation and unwavering attention could only mean that not only could he see what was happening in the tiny, dense and humid room but he could not look away. I felt immediately jealous. Though, to be fair, he likely had about of foot of height on me — an advantage I couldn’t exactly mimic.
Someone brought his tots, one of which sigh-shouted frequently, “I can’t see anything!” You and me both, bub. A couple of frustrated sidewalk squatters started boredly tapping on their iPhones, resigned to the fact that there was no way they were getting inside.
Regardless of my less-than-ideal spot, I could still hear the soft twirls of “Classic Rock in Spring.” Vile’s voice cruised sweetly like a saccharine cloud, poised to melt at the lightest touch. Folks leaned yet further forward. It couldn’t have been more perfect except if D.C. actually felt like spring at the moment. That and if I could see.
He played a couple more tunes and eventually the quiet strings silenced completely. The troops of sweaty, silly-grinning kids from insides clumsily started trickling out. Stupidly, I pushed against the flow and somehow jostled myself into the sauna.
I sort of whirled around in the balmy confusion, rethinking my move downwards. I obnoxiously popped my camera above heads for a while until Vile returned guitar-strapped to the front of the room. Cha-ching, I thought to myself.
He played just one more, and then it was over. This time for real.
A decent amount of people lingered in a haze of awe. Vile lingered, too. His Smoke Ring For My Halo LP’s sold out but he stayed and scribbled on some. Although my copy would come clean, I certainly plan to revisit Red Onion this weekend to pick up my own.